It is hard to believe that only four years ago the name Vasilissa, which in Greek means queen, was an undiscovered grape variety. At the time another variety was grabbing theheadlines Morokanella, which was first released by Aes Ambelis winery.
Gerolemo winery, based in Omodhos, Vouni Panayias as part of their microvinifications line and Kathikas Vasilikon winery near the Akamas Peninsula later joined Aes Ambelis in Morokanella production, but differences in aroma and taste led to the conclusion that there were two completely different varieties on the island.
The new variety needed a name: Vasilissa was chosen. You could distinguish the vines of this variety; they were scattered in the vineyards, and they looked majestically taller. The berries, when ready for harvest, had a golden yellow colour. The paperwork for registering the new variety was done and wineries using the new with the name Morokanella were given a two-year grace period to change it.
Therefore, the island now has three wineries that produce Morokanella and three that produce Vasilissa. At a recent meeting of OinoArt a friends of wine club at Think 30 restaurant in the capital, oenophiles had a chance to taste sample of these varieties. The new wave of Cypriot wines is slowly in the rise.
Morokanella is classified as an indigenous white variety, meaning it originates from Cyprus. For unknown reasons, the name is derived from ‘moron’ or ‘mouro’ which means in Greek berries and ‘kaneon’ or ‘kanalla’ which means knitted basket. For unknown reasons, the name could also derive from cinnamon (‘kanella’) which is the colour of the berries during harvest and ‘moro’ which means small. The variety was rediscovered by Cypriot oenologist Akis Zambartas, and it was first mentioned in 1979. The variety was widely spread under the Ottoman occupation.
What distinguishes Morokanella are the ‘sweet’ aromas of stone fruits, citrus peel, quince, almond and white flowers, its medium to full body and balanced acidity.
2020 Aes Ambelis Winery, PGI Pafos, Abv 12.5%
This hay yellow wine has citrus and zesty green fruit aromas with peach, pear and melon notes to prepare you for the flavour explosion in the mouth, where lemons and limes run rampant and yet are controlled by the bold acidity and mineral backbone. It has great weight and length with some marmalade notes for complexity. Excellent with grilled fish, white sauce pasta and chicken salads. €12
2020 Gerolemo Winery, PGI Lemesos, Abv 12.5%
A rich and complex wine. It has a bright straw yellow colour with greenish reflections and the nose offers a refreshing, balanced mix of orange blossoms and fruity, citrus bergamot aromas and flavours, such as white peach, pear, quince and lychee. The fruity and floral notes return in the mouth accompanied by a marked freshness, leading to a pleasant aftertaste. A perfect match for fresh fish, pasta and rich salads. €12
2019 Vouni Panayia Microvinications, The Woman on the Wine Press, PGI Pafos, Abv 11.5%
This microvinification was sourced from 70-year-old bush vines and only 650 bottles produced. Unoaked and kept on fine lees, it has a pale lemon green colour and bright acidity. Overwhelming fruit of apricots, peach, citrus with kumquat to the fore and some herbal notes balanced with the power of the wine. It pairs well with grilled or baked fish and light pastas. €27
Vasilissa generally gives extremely sweet aromas of powdered sugar and delight with stone fruits, citrus peels and white flowers.
2021 Vasilikon Winery Vasilissa, P.G.I. Pafos, Abv 13.5%
The tasting was a preview as this is not the end product. Because of its young age the nose is still ‘tight,’ and the wine is nervy, however, aromas of flowers and white fleshed fruits along with some distant (yet) honey and lychee notes remind us of the typicity of the wine. Almost full bodied, the nose aromas are evident, yet not clear, it is a promising wine with a long-perfumed aftertaste. €13
2021 Tsangarides Winery Vasilissa Bio PGI Pafos, Abv 13%
This is the second attempt from vineyards with bio practices. The nose is becoming livelier with aeration revealing hints of rose petal, other floral aromas, sweet spices and vanilla, melon, lychee with a note of honeysuckle and a bit of flint. A textured wine with superb length and balance, classy wine with long finish and persistent aromas. The wine will pair with green salads, baked vegetables, past, low-fat fish and a wide variety of sea food. €12
2020 Makarounas Vasilissa, PGI Pafos, Abv 12%
Light yellow colour, on the nose the bouquet opens with candied grapefruit, acacia flower, white peach, melon, guava and wet stone. There is also a sweet/bitter note of fresh almond. The mouthfeel is round yet a freshness lights it up. On the mouth the citrus note is back, it finishes crispy with a touch of bitter almond and mineral notes. The finish is medium long. €14